Aldeburgh: Retailers and residents vow to fight against threat of national chains to stop resort becoming a ‘clone town’
BUSINESS leaders and people who live in one of Suffolk’s most prestigious seaside towns last night vowed to fight to protect its “unique character” from an influx of national chain stores.
Supermarket giant Tesco has already unveiled plans to open a store in Saxmundham Road, Aldeburgh.
And the EADT understands Boots has made an application to the NHS to open a 100 hours per week pharmacy in the High Street somewhere between Baggotts the newsagent and the Aldeburgh Market.
There is also speculation that both WH Smith and Caffe Nero could be exploring potential sites in the town.
Last night businesses and residents said they feared Aldeburgh could become yet another “clone town” if a clutch of national stores moved in – and vowed to do all they could to stop it happening.
Naomi Tarry, chairman of Aldeburgh Business Association, said: “The town centre is a vibrant place to live, work and visit because of its uniqueness, because it is different to the majority of high streets in the UK.
“If we lose our independent shops then we are in danger of losing Aldeburgh’s unique identity – it would be the start of an erosion of our special seaside town and so we are looking at a range of practical steps we can take to help enhance its uniqueness and meet local needs.”
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Michael Toppin, who lives in the town, is hoping people will join him and form a Keep Aldeburgh Special Campaign (KASC).
“I would be keen to work with all interested parties to see how we can go forward and protect the unique character of this wonderful town,” he said. “That’s why so many people visit here. They come away to relax, recharge and enjoy the whole coastal experience.”
Barry Shooter, who owns the only pharmacy in Aldeburgh, said under the 100-hour service rule Boots would need to open from 8am until midnight six days a week plus a few hours on Sunday.
He said there was a real danger the town would not be able to support two pharmacies and it could lead to both closing.
Aldeburgh Town Council held an extraordinary meeting on Monday night to discuss Tesco’s plans.
Members felt they needed more details and agreed to ask for a meeting with the supermarket chain ahead of calling a larger public meeting – to be scheduled for sometime in early July – to gauge people’s opinions.
It was also thought a representative from Tesco should attend this meeting but town clerk Ruth Proctor said they had declined to attend any such events – instead preferring to hold another drop-in session similar to one at the end of last month or visit people in their homes.
Tesco has previously said it believes an Express store would compliment the independent traders – offering people more choice and encouraging shoppers to stay in the town rather than go elsewhere. Other residents have also backed the proposals, saying they welcome the chance for cheaper shopping and more variety.
A spokesman for NHS Suffolk said they could neither confirm nor deny an approach had been made by Boots as all applications were submitted in commercial confidence.
When asked by the EADT if Boots was planning to open a 100-hour pharmacy in Aldeburgh, a spokeswoman for the company said: “We currently have no plans to open a store on Aldeburgh High Street.”